Unlike stock CPU coolers that are fairly low-profile and basic, aftermarket CPU coolers come in various different models, sizes and price tags.
Advanced, aftermarket air CPU coolers can offer better cooling of your i7 9700K or other CPUs without needing a massive heatsink. For this reason, they are great for smaller PC cases.
On the other hand, there are also tower coolers if you have enough room for bigger heatsinks that can provide excellent cooling efficiency.
If you’re running CPU intensive applications, then you may want to consider spending the extra money on an aftermarket liquid CPU cooler. They offer premium CPU cooling, however, they come at a price.
After our recommendations below, we’ll list the pros and cons of an air CPU cooler vs liquid CPU cooler so you can make the most informed decision.
What is the Best CPU Cooler for i7 9700K
Our top pick for the best CPU cooler for i7 9700K is the Corsair Hydro Series H150i PRO RGB: it is a liquid CPU cooler with excellent cooling performance and aesthetically pleasing with its customizable RGB.
It is not the most affordable option around, but does offer some of the best features among the other products we’ve reviewed.
However, if you are still not sure whether the Hydro Series H150i PRO is the right choice for you, below we will also discuss 9 other options in our top 10 picks below.
Let us begin right away from the number ten.
Top 10 Best CPU Coolers for i7 9700k
- Well-balanced cooling performance provides fin optimizations with perfect balance between high and low-speed operations
- 4 Direct Contact heat pipes with the patented CDC (Continuous Direct Contact) technology – creating a perfect, sleek surface for heat conduction
- Wide-range PWM fan with unique wave-shaped blade design for excellent airflow
- Airflow: 82.9 CFM; Noise level: 36.0 decibels
- Fan dimensions:120 x 120 x 25 millimeter (4.7 x 4.7 x 1 inches)
- Heat sink dimensions: 116 x 51 x 159 millimeter (4.6 x 2 x 6.2 inch)
Pros and Cons
- Relatively silent fans as an air CPU cooler, maximum noise at only 36 decibels
- Great cooling performance with fan optimizations at both high and low speeds
- Wave-shaped, innovative blade design for more efficient airflow
- Decent heat sink size
- Can be quite difficult to install for beginners
- Doesn’t offer a thermal plate
- Quad direct-contact heat pipe design
- Cools your i7 9700k CPU up to 250W TDP
- Intuitive slide-and-lock fan mount system
- Variable Mounting height for wide DRAM compatibility and easy installation
- Two Corsair ML120 fans
- Magnetic levitation bearing fans with PWM control allows you to adjust between 400 RPM for ultra-quiet operation or 2, 400 RPM for extreme cooling performance.
- Corsair holdfast retention system: Easy to install and ensures consistent thermal performance with a secure and reliable fit
- Corsair XTM50 high-performance thermal paste applied in an optimized pattern for even spreading.
Pros and Cons
- High-quality build, durable and sturdy
- Great design, as expected from Corsair
- Easy to install with the slide-and-lock innovative mechanism
- Big and bulky
- Fans can be very noisy when the CPU is running at full load
- Not the cheapest option
- Hexagon hologram aluminum fin design– specialized hologram cutout for unique color lighting and excellent heat dissipation
- Thermal detection sensor CPU temperature monitored by a sensor and displayed through color lighting effects
- Air guide armor the specially designed Armor to guide the airflow and reduce dead spots
- 28 addressable RGB led fully addressable RGB that is certified to sync with RGB motherboard or controlled by master plus+
- Continuous Direct Contact Technology 2; 0 (CDC 2; 0) by compressing heat pipes together, There is 45% more surface area on the cooler base, providing improved heat dissipation over the previous version
Pros and Cons
- Not very loud as an air CPU cooler
- Customizable RGB lighting for fans and cooling tower LEDs
- Great looks with an aggressive design
- Excellent cooling performance with a relatively compact body
- Installation is quite complicated
- Not the best cooling performance
- Type: Air CPU Cooler
- 180watt TDP
- 4 High-Performance heat pipes
- True Copper Base with Nickel Plating
- Includes 140mm PWM Fan with 1400 RPM 76 CFM 19 ~ 23 dBA
Pros and Cons
- Affordable, great price to performance ratio
- Amazing cooling performance with 4 heat pipes
- Aesthetically pleasing with black and white finish
- Fairly big, so you’ll need adequate space inside the PC case
- Included screws are cheap so might not secure the bracket well
- Two virtually inaudible silent Wings PWM fans
- Funnel-shaped frame of the front fan for high air pressure
- Achieves only 24.3Db(a) at maximum fan speed
- Seven high-performance copper heat pipes. Overall dimensions without Mounting material (L x w x H): 5.7 x 5.35 x 6.40 inch
- Airflow-optimized cooling fins; cutouts enhance the RAM compatibility
- Easily installable black Installation Kit can be mounted from above
- Intel: LGA 1150/ 1151/ 1155/ 1156/ 1366/ 2011(-3) square ILM/ 2066
- Amd: AM2(+)/ AM3(+)/ AM4/ FM1/ FM2(+)
Pros and Cons
- Excellent build quality
- Easy to install with intuitive mounting mechanism
- Very low noise levels even in maximum CPU load
- Excellent cooling performance
- Great looks
- Large and heavy, might hang over your DIMM memory slots
- Horizontal vapor chamber technology minimizes CPU hotspots and spreads heat evenly to all heat pipes
- Airflow: 82 CFM. Noise level: 36.0 decibels
- Dual high airflow PWM fans with Red LEDs for an aggressive look
- Fan speed and noise can be fine-tuned and customized for desired balance between performance and sound
- Fans feature Cooler Master 4th generation Polyoxymethylene (POM) Bearing for increased longevity (up to 160, 000 hours) and are dustproof
- Universal mounting system compatible with i7 9700k and most other intel and AMD CPUs
Pros and Cons
- Great visual appearance with LED lighting
- Great cooling performance with its vapor chamber technology
- Good memory clearance for taller cases
- Fans can be very loud
- Big and bulky
- Relatively expensive
- Proven premium heatsink (more than 300 awards and recommendations from international hardware websites), now available in an all-black design that goes great with many colour schemes and RGB LEDs
- Extra-wide 140mm dual-tower design with 6 heatpipes and dual fans provides maximum quiet cooling efficiency on a par with many all-in-one watercoolers, ideal for overclockers and silent-enthusiasts!
- Dual-fan design with renowned, award-winning NF-A15 140mm fans with Low-Noise Adaptors and PWM for automatic speed control: Full cooling performance under load, whisper quiet at idle!
- Includes high-end NT-H1 thermal paste and SecuFirm2 mounting system for easy installation
Pros and Cons
- Outstanding cooling performance with two 140mm fans
- Silent operation
- Good memory clearance
- Easy mounting system
- Six-year warranty
- Relatively expensive
- Bulky, not for all cases
- Infinity mirror design with advanced lighting modes. Fully dynamic lighting experience
- Engineered to achieve superior cooling while keeping noise levels to a minimum
- Master your control: Using CAM, manage the performance with precision and make changes quickly, using the desktop or mobile app. You can even monitor pump speed and liquid temperature.
- All-new radiator fans: The Aer P radiator fans included are designed for liquid-cooling perfection; providing silent operation, durability, and powerful cooling performance
- 6 years warranty
Pros and Cons
- Amazing liquid cooling performance
- Sleek design, one of the best-looking CPU coolers with RGB lighting features
- Easy to install and support many different CPUs besides the i7 9700k
- Intuitive CAM software support for easier management and monitoring
- Rather expensive
- The CAM software sends data to NZXT for those concerned with privacy
- Liquid cooler
- Patented Ring Plus RGB Software Enabled : Changes the light modes, colors, speeds, brightness, fan speeds, and even supports AI voice control in iOS and Android devices
- 12 Separately Controlled RGB LEDs for unrivaled Lighting Control. Rated Voltage:12 V/ 5VRated Current:0.325 A / 0.4AMotor Speed:3600 R.P.M
- 360mm High-Efficiency Radiator with Push/Pull Mounting Support. For desktop, requires TT RGB PLUS Software 1.1.5 version or later, for iOS requires iOS 10.0 or later, for Android requires Android 6.0.0 or later with screen resolution 1920 x 1080
- High-Performance Waterblock and Durable Sleeved Cable
- Features RGB of Speed: 500~1400RPM , Noise Level :19.8 ~ 24.7 dB , Rated Voltage:12 V Max
Pros and Cons
- Has great cooling performance while featuring relatively small fan blades
- Easy to install with intuitive mounting system
- Sleeved tubes technology, reducing evaporation rate for more prolonged use
- TT RGB Plus software to control fan speed and RGB lighting
- The cascading controller can be difficult to use
- Proprietary 9-pin cables can only work with the included controller
- Customizable RGB backlit pump head produces vivid lighting effects to match your build. Airflow – 47. 3 CFM. Noise level – 25. 0 decibels
- Powered by magnetic Levitation: three Low-Noise 120mm ML series magnetic levitation PWM fans deliver incredible airflow and produce just 20 dB of noise at full speed
- Powerful software: Corsair iCUE software allows you to adjust RGB lighting, individual fan speeds, and pump speed while monitoring CPU and coolant temperatures
- Zero RPM mode: zero RPM cooling profiles allow fans to stop entirely at low temperatures, completely eliminating fan noise
- Fan Dimensions-4. 7 x 0. 9 inches
Pros and Cons
- Top-tier liquid cooling performance, best in class
- Excellent build quality, sturdy and durable
- Exceptional clearance
- Temperature-controlled RGB LED, great aesthetics
- Magnetic levitation fans
- Very bulky
- The radiator requires 3x120mm adjacent fan mounts
Liquid CPU Cooler vs Air CPU Cooler
Air CPU Cooler
Typically an air CPU cooler consists of two main parts: the fan, and the heat sink.
The heat sink is made of thermo-conductive material with metal fins at the end that is attached directly on top of the CPU, and it functions to transfer the heat from the CPU to itself, up to the metal fins. Commonly heat sinks are made of aluminum or copper, and the fan will then “push” the heat out of the heat sink to cool these metal fins down.
Pros of air CPU cooler:
- More affordable than liquid cooler
- Easier maintenance and less maintenance required (i.e. no leaking)
- Good value for money
Cons of air CPU cooler:
- Loud fans
- Limited cooling performance compared to liquid cooler
- Less attractive, aesthetic-wise
Liquid CPU Cooler
In liquid CPU cooler, you also have a heat sink and fans attached to it, but it also has a water pump, as well as the interconnecting pipes.
In a liquid cooler, the heat sink is also called a radiator and functions basically the same way as in an air CPU cooler: the heat from the CPU is transferred into the pump, which will then pump the water (carrying the heat) to to the radiator. Fans will then cool the radiator down and the water is circulated back to the pump around a closed-loop system.
Pros of liquid CPU cooler
- Better cooling potential
- Visually more appealing
Cons of liquid CPU cooler
- You’ll need to make sure your case supports your radiator size
- More expensive
- Need more maintenance
- Can leak and damage your PC
Which One Is Best?
A liquid cooler can provide more efficient cooling, but at the same time, it will cost you more. A liquid CPU cooler also takes up a lot more space in your PC case.
Keep in mind that our tests have shown that in some cases air CPU coolers can outperform liquid CPU coolers. However, the downside is the fans can be quite loud.
Are aftermarket CPU coolers worth it?
The answer here would depend on your needs and preferences, but in general, there are two conditions where you might need an aftermarket CPU cooler:
- Your stock fan is too loud or is not effective enough to lower your CPU temperature during your daily usage
- You want to overclock your CPU
If you want to overclock your CPU, then you’ll need an aftermarket CPU cooler in most cases if you want to keep your CPU and motherboard safe from overheating.
The more expensive the aftermarket cooler is, the more effective and efficient its performance will be, but there are also fairly affordable coolers that are also relatively quiet, which can be a great replacement for your stock CPU cooler if you only want a quieter and/or cooler CPU.
However, before deciding on getting an aftermarket cooler, it’s important to note that if your PC overheats often, the CPU cooler is not always the culprit, and you should first:
- Clean your PC: Carefully clean your PSU, CPU, and GPU coolers, as well as air intakes on your computer case. Dust can be a major obstruction of your airflow and can lead to overheating.
- Fix your PC’s airflow: It’s quite often that your CPU coolers are actually adequate, but your CPU (and GPU) might not get enough cool air from the outside. You can install a case-mounted fan or two in such cases, not to mention that they are fairly affordable.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What socket does the i7 9700K use?
The i7 9700K CPU uses the LGA 1151 socket type.
2. How Do You Install an Aftermarket CPU Cooler?
While the exact installation process might vary depending on the exact model of your aftermarket CPU cooler, the general steps of installing an aftermarket CPU cooler goes like this:
Step 1: Apply thermal paste if necessary
Your CPU cooler and your CPU should be separated by a thin layer of a thermal compound—the thermal paste— which functions to enable heat transfer from the CPU to the CPU cooler.
Some CPU cooler products come with thermal paste already applied, so you should first check the manual whether it has a pre-applied thermal paste or you should apply one yourself.
If your cooler doesn’t already have thermal paste applied, you should apply the thermal paste to the top of your CPU lid.
You don’t need to apply too much, just put a small dot in the center of the CPU lid and spread it evenly with a credit card.
Step 2: Installing bracket
Not all CPU cooler products require a mounting bracket, but some might require you to install the mounting bracket that screws through your motherboard and into the PC case.
If the CPU cooler needs to be mounted, check the instruction manual on how to attach it to your case. If you are going to install a liquid CPU cooler, you should also install the radiator as instructed.
Step 3: Aligning your CPU cooler
The next step is to take your cooler and hold it over your CPU. You may need to remove fans from your cooler during installation, although this will vary depending on the cooler’s model.
Step 4: Mounting the CPU cooler
Once the CPU cooler is in place, push in or screw in the connectors in an X-shaped pattern. Don’t tighten the screws in a square, as this can create uneven pressure across the CPU, which might impact cooling.
Step 5: Attaching the fans
If you removed any fans when attaching the CPU, you can reattach them to your cooler now. Consult the CPU cooler’s manual for correct reattachment.
Last but not least make sure everything is attached properly and all elements have the required power.
3. When Should an Aftermarket CPU Cooler Be Installed?
Technically, the answer is anytime you see fit.
You can install an aftermarket CPU cooler as you are building a brand new PC, or replacing a stock CPU cooler/existing aftermarket cooler on your PC.
4. How Much Thermal Paste Should I Use on My CPU?
You should only use a very little amount of thermal paste, around a pea-sized dot of paste out of the tube. It should be no more than half an inch wide at any point on your CPU, but don’t worry if it’s not perfectly even.
In general, however, too little thermal paste is better than too much. Too much paste can spread beyond the CPU and the plate, which can instead transfer undesirable heat to the surrounding PCBs and other parts of your PC, which can hinder your PC’s performance.
5. Do I Have to Remove My Motherboard To Install CPU Cooler?
The answer for this would depend on your computer case, your motherboard, and your CPU cooler, but especially your computer case.
If your case has a CPU cutout on the back plane (most mid to high-end aftermarket case will have this), then you don’t have to remove your motherboard to install your CPU cooler.
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